As I begin preparing for an upcoming expedition to the Arctic, this blog will make a bit of a transformation from essays to trip updates.
I am in the throws of making lists, checking them twice and finalizing details for what promises to be an amazing trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate the Refuge’s 50th Anniversary. This expedition was made possible through a grant from the Murie Center, an institution dedicated to furthering the conservation legacy of the Murie family. Olas and Mardie Murie were highly influential in the creation of the Refuge.
Myself, along with Andy Tyson, Moe and Heather Witschard, leave for Alaska at the end of July. I will spend a few days in Fairbanks, then Arctic Village, home to members of the Gwich’in people. At Arctic Village, I’ll meet up with the rest of the crew and we will fly to Last Lake, the site of the Murie’s historic 1956 expedition. Our route provides an excellent chronology for the history of the Refuge. Starting at Last Lake, located within the original National Arctic Wildlife Range, gives me an opportunity to investigate the Refuge’s genesis and the Murie’s involvement in this tremendous project. From Last Lake we will traverse up and over the Brooks Range, eventually coming to the head of the Jago River.
At the Jago we’ll blow up our packrafts and start out to the sea. The Jago takes us through the newer portion of the Refuge, obtained through ANILCA legislation passed in 1980, which defines the Refuge’s present day boundaries. The Jago also allows us the opportunity to travel through the heart of Area 1002- ground zero for the Refuge drilling debate.
From the mouth of the Jago we’ll head towards the Inupiat village of Kaktovik, located on the shores of the Beaufort Sea. While the Gwich’in’s culture and subsistence lifestyle is linked to the Porcupine Caribou herd that calve in Area 1002, the Inupiat mainly rely on the sea. On-shore drilling threatens the caribou, while off-shore drilling threatens the Beaufort’s rich sea life.
After a few days in Kaktovik, I’ll return home to the Lower-48, back to starry night skies.
Stay tuned for more….